My default setting these days is “I’m okay.”
“How are you?”
Here’s the deal: “Okay” is not a cop-out, or a way to lock you out of my inner workings. “Okay” is not flippant, it is not a thoughtless answer. My pause is not one of dread, the hesitation is not a mad scramble for a word to neatly tie up inner turmoil into something socially acceptable.
Tomorrow it is three months. I should have a three-month old cooing and giggling at me. I should be surviving on little sleep organized around a flurry of feedings and diaper changes. My son should be our constant companion to our daily lives. I should be a mother.
But I’m not. My failure rings clear and it hurts.
And yet, I am “okay.” I am healthy. I am whole. I have a wonderful husband, amazing friends, and music to soothe the ache. I know my loss won’t always hurt like this. I may not ever understand why my husband and I weren’t allowed to be parents to such a beautiful little boy, but I’m okay. I’m stronger than I knew. Losing our son so soon after his birth was, by far, the biggest disappointment of our lives, but it does not define me.
Sometimes it is hard, so very, very hard to function, knowing that so many women in my community have recently become what I am not. And that I have to face them, every day at The Day Job, knowing that, outside of my hearing, they wonder what I did to not be able to bring my son home. Some days it is all I can do to hold back the tears.
Sometimes it isn’t hard at all. Sometimes I can leave the empty hole in my heart at the door and my smile feels ready and genuine. Sometimes, I feel like the person I was, before I ever wanted children with this constant and present ache. Sometimes it feels like it was all a bad dream that didn’t really happen, a nightmare capable of being shrugged off.
“Okay” is my way of checking in with myself. “Okay” is reminding myself that I am hurt, yes, but I am also still standing.
“Okay” is where I am, right now, and I’ll be here for a while. I may never be any more than just “okay,” even on the days that are fantastic, even on the days that suck. Because life after losing a child you wanted so badly is like being in a fight. When you’ve been beat down like this, it’s easier to cover your head and stay down. All our natural impulses drive us to take what’s been dished out and pray there is no more forthcoming. But to stand up? To brush yourself off and put up your fists? To keep living? That takes fight. It takes a ‘fire in your belly’ and a certain, stupid pluck to get back up off the ground and say “I’m okay.” Mind over matter. It’s no small feat after something as tragic as losing your first and only child. But here I am. And I am up, I am standing. That’s a start. That’s “okay.”
So please don’t raise your eyebrows or look at me funny for my hesitation to the question. Please don’t quiz me on whether I’m “Just okay?” and then give me a disappointed look like you expected more of me, three months after. I am what I am, where I am, who I am. Take it or leave it.
I am “okay.” And that’s okay with me.